Addressing needs of women on list of bills filed
From the Desk of Sen. Jessica Garvin
As we grow nearer to the start of the legislative session, it seems there aren’t enough hours in the day. This session, I’ve introduced nearly 50 pieces of legislation with one joint resolution, so I’ll be busier than ever. Altogether, more than 1,100 bills were filed in the Senate and the Floor Leader will now begin assigning those measures to the various committees. The chairs will then decide which bills they want to hear, so I’ll be reviewing the list for our General Government Committee.
Continuing the conversation about my bills, they touch on a variety of issues. I’m continuing my fight against period poverty with SB 382, which would allow nonprofits who provide feminine hygiene products to those in need to get a sales tax exemption on those purchases. For some reason, these necessary products aren’t covered by federal assistance programs and are only tax exempt in around 18 states. I’m still astonished that I even have to file such legislation, but this is a major health and financial concern nationwide for low-income and homeless women. Given that half of Oklahoma’s population is female, I hope that the Legislature will fast track this important measure this session.
An issue that has played a role in the great resignation is parents not being able to get paid leave off following the birth or adoption of a child. I’ve filed two bills to try to address this issue for both the public sector and state employees.
SB 990 would create the Oklahoma Paid Family Leave Program managed by the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. This would be similar to the very successful Insure Oklahoma Program that helps small businesses be able to provide insurance through a cost-sharing program with the state. Under the voluntary Family Leave Program, employees who wanted to participate would have a percentage of their salary remitted into the program. After working for six months consecutively, they’d be eligible to utilize the Family Act and be paid a certain amount of their regular salary.
SB 193 would allow any state employee who has been employed for at least two years to be granted six weeks leave for the birth or adoption of a child. Such leave would be subject to the approval of the employee’s appointing authority. Those granted such leave would receive the base state pay without interruption during the absence.
While not one of my bills, our Senate Education Committee chair has filed SB 364 to provide 12 weeks of paid maternity leave to teachers who have been with a district for at least one year. This is a field that is 76% female and as the teacher shortage continues, we must find ways to help these professionals not have to choose between their career or having a family.
I’m anxious to see my colleagues’ ideas of how to address these important issues.
If you have any questions or concerns, please write to Senator Jessica Garvin, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 237, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, email: Jessica.Garvin@oksenate.gov or call (405) 521-5522.
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